Jobu reacts to the whirlwind of activity from the Yankees that happened on Friday night.
For those of you who got the reference in the title of this article, good for you. For those of you who didn’t, watch Forrest Gump again. That’s right friends. On Friday the 13th, the dead rose from the grave and roamed the earth. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, whom I suspected had been kidnapped just a few weeks ago, picked up Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, which turned the Yankees pitching rotation from a glaring weakness to a big time strength, and it only took him an hour! The flurry of additions left me, and other fans I’m sure, completely stunned, a little sad, but very excited for the 2012 season.
How can I express to you just how quickly all of this came together? I was finally on the train home from work after a long but productive day at the office, when I got a text from my brother… asking me if I had heard the latest rumor.
My Brother, 7:37PM: Did you hear the Montero for Pineda rumor?
Me, 7:39PM: No… Straight up? Sorry I’m on the train
My Brother, 7:40PM: No details yet, but apparently it could happen soon.
Me, 7:52PM: Go to MLBTR now. It happened.
(7:52PM – 8:25PM: We come to terms with losing Montero and gush about Pineda)
Me, 8:26PM: Um Kuroda??
Me, 8:30PM: They Signed Kuroda
My Brother, 8:30: Wait, what?
There you have it. At 7:37PM, the Yankees were looking at a rotation of CC Sabathia, Iván Nova, Freddy García, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes. 53 Minutes later, they had one of the best young arms in baseball in the second spot and another solid veteran at the three or four (depending on where they slot Kuroda). Talk about making an impact!
Let’s get to the details of the transactions. I’m sure you already know this but, here at Jobu’s Rum, we like to educate the ignorant. Let’s start with Kuroda. According to MLBTraderumors, the Yankees signed the thirty-six year old former Dodger to a one year contract worth $10 million dollars. Kuroda is coming from the weaker National League East, which haters will immediately point out is no match for the powerful AL East (boo hoo, Sox fans… boo hoo). While he did pitch very well against the NL West (6-3, 2.93 ERA), it wasn’t as big a sample size as you might have thought (61.1 innings). In his other 140.2 innings, he more than held his own. His record wasn’t ideal at 7-13, but his ERA was a paltry 3.14. Overall in his four seasons since coming over from Japan, Kuroda has put up a 3.45 ERA, a 1.213 WHIP, and held opponents to a .249 BAA against him. When I compared that to what Hughes and Burnett did last year, I suddenly felt a whole lot better.
For Pineda, the Yankees had to give up a lot more than just money. In exchange for Pineda and 18-year old prospect José Campos, the Yankees gave up Jesús Montero, the best hitting prospect they have had in probably the last twenty years, and Hector Noesi, one of the young pitchers they were hoping would challenge for the fifth spot in the rotation. I am not going to lie to you, losing Montero hurts me. I covered my feelings for Montero in a post when the Yankees first called him up in early September. We called him “our son” and watched him grow into one of the top prospects in baseball. I’m glad I got to see him at least hit a few home runs for the Yankees before they traded him away. We’ll miss you Jesús. Oh and thanks to Hector Noesi too. He was cool.
As I said earlier, the Yankees are getting back one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball. Despite only twelve career AAA starts, Pineda made the Mariners rotation out of spring training last year, and boy did he hit the ground running. He was good enough in the first half (8-6, 3.03 ERA, 9 K/9) to make the All-Star team at just twenty-one years of age. While he did struggle in the second half, his strike out numbers actually slightly improved, which was a good sign, and perhaps an innings limit was to blame for his sporadic pitching. Pineda is twenty-two years old now, with a full year of baseball under his belt, no innings limit, and a 95 mph fastball. The Yankees also will control him for at least the next five seasons. Pineda is an absolute stud, and he gives the Yankees the number two starter they desperately need.
So what’s next for the Yankees? Trading Montero has not just helped to solidify the starting rotation. The trade has also opened up the DH spot. While surely the Yankees will use that spot to give some of their starters (especially the older guys) regular rest, It is to be expected that they’ll be in the market for some kind of impact bat. Rumors are already swirling about Carlos Peña, but I wouldn’t mind if they brought back Johnny Damon for another run. Although he’s thirty-eight years old, Damon showed he could still put up some numbers in 2011 for the Tampa Bay Rays (16 HR, 73 RBI, 19 SB), and his swing is made for Yankees Stadium. I hope they throw him a couple of million dollars and he comes back home. Another interesting question is what will the Yankees will do with their suddenly surplus of starting pitching? Will they somehow fool someone into taking Burnett’s contract off their hands? Is Phil Hughes on the move? It should be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of months.
As the shock starts to fade away now almost five hours after the flurry of moves that completely changed the landscape of the 2012 season, I can really start to appreciate what Brian Cashman did. Like he did in 2009 when he traded for Curtis Granderson, Cashman used a top prospect to make the Yankees a little younger and a whole lot better. After spending almost two-and-half months doing absolutely nothing, which led to a lot of criticism (mostly from me), he shocked the baseball world. I was almost ready to call for his job after it seemed every other team made big trades (Nationals, Reds, etc). Then, on one spooky Friday the 13th in January, he woke up, rubbed the crust out of his eyes, yawned, stretched and changed the scope of the American League. Next time, I’ll wait til the hibernation is over before I criticize the bear.
Cashman image courtesy of: JOHN MUNSON/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE
Pineda image courtesy of: http://www.rantsports.com/
Kuroda image courtesy of: AP/MICHAEL DWYER
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